Today’s Boston Globe column by Paul McMorrow of Commonwealth Magazine on the Carlone amendment and the planning crisis in Cambridge sparked a lively string of comments online. Taking a step back from the debate about the politics of the city’s special permitting process, let’s think for a moment about who else is affected by our planning decisions, and what’s at stake. My letter to the Globe editor follows:
To the Editor:
Columnist Paul McMorrow is right that Cambridge urgently needs a new approach to development. However, the “terrifying prospect” is not that that the Cambridge Planning Board would be “gutted” as he wrongly suggests. It is that large-scale development in the Alewife area will continue in the current haphazard fashion in the absence of a citywide plan that threads the needle between promoting economic and housing growth and preserving the area’s livability and floodplain environment. The Alewife area is the caboose on the Kendall Square engine, long neglected as the industrial fringe but suddenly desirable as the city’s last frontier for redevelopment. The area presents great opportunity and even greater urban planning challenges. Cambridge is not an island; our planning decisions will impact residents of neighboring communities as well — those trying to commute through the Alewife bottleneck and those who share its vulnerable floodplain environment. We will all be living with the results of piecemeal planning for years to come. Proceed with caution.
A Target store would be a very good choice for the 88 (aka 180R) CPD location. The store would draw customers from a large swath of the greater boston area and would bring in people during the off-work hours as well as weekends which is exactly what the doctor ordered for several other types of neighborhood businesses to establish and thrive on CPD. The 88 CPD location has very good public tranisit connectivity which would be further enhanced when a commuter rail station and the pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks is established. It seems a no-brainer that a Target would be a huge win for all the stake-holders. Do the developer and the city have the cojones to think of the big picture? Given the stakeholder’s intentions to maximize short-term profits at all costs, it comes as no surprise to anyone that we are back at the golden egg laying goose situation everytime an open parcel of land comes up for development.
Adding a sixth Target store within the immediate area seems less a priority right now, though Target might disagree. Last I checked, not so many people were lugging their new flat-screen TV home on the T.